By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds took another step Monday toward being ready to play when the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Denver Broncos Sunday at 8:20 p.m. at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo.
Harrison, the starting right outside linebacker, had arthroscopic surgery Aug. 15 on his left knee Aug. 15. Worilds, a key backup at outside linebacker, has an injured left wrist. Both missed the majority of training camp and the preseason, but each practiced as much as possible Monday and hope to play this week.
“It went OK,” Harrison said. “We’ll find out (Tuesday). It’ll give us more detail, whether it swells up or not, but there’s been very little discomfort.”
Harrison added that he did everything in practice Monday except for the last segment, as the Steelers practiced for about 2 1/2 hours after being off for a three-day weekend. Worilds did not take any breaks.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Worilds said. “It was a good step forward for me, so I want to continue to take steps forward. But I can only worry about today. It’s feeling good today, and (Tuesday) we’ll see how it feels. But I’m going to keep working hard to get ready for the next practice.
“It’s not my decision, but if it was my decision I would tell myself that I was going to play this week. So, today was a great day, and hopefully each one will get better this week. And if I continue to progress, I’ll definitely be ready to go when we play Sunday night.”
Wideout Mike Wallace, who initially did not sign his one-year tender and sat out the entire training camp, returned to the team Aug. 28 and signed for $2.74 million. A fourth-year player, Wallace caught a career-high 72 passes for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and he did not expect to be limited at all this week or in the game against the Broncos. “I felt pretty good out there, and Coach gave me a lot to look at today,” Wallace said. “But he’s good about that. He knew that I wanted to work, and I was able to get in a lot of extra time. … Like I’ve said, I like where I’m at so far this week, but they shouldn’t have to limit me at all.
“I felt pretty good today, and we’ll see how it goes the rest of the week. But I’m very excited for this season, and I don’t think they’ll have to hold back too much. I’m in good shape, and I’m picking things up pretty quick. I’ve worked pretty hard since I signed, so I expect to be ready to go.”
Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey and Baron Batch each got some playing time Monday, but it appears that Redman — if he’s healthy — and Dwyer will get the bulk of the carries Sunday night. Rainey and Batch probably would be used on a more situational basis.
“I’m just excited to be playing in a big game, period,” Dwyer said. “It’s Peyton Manning’s so-called coming out party, and I’m glad to be part of it. The whole world’s going to be watching, so I’m glad to suit up and be ready to go. I don’t know what my role will be.
“But I’m working hard to be in the best shape I can be and be as well-prepared as I can be. So, I’m getting ready mentally and physically for this game, but I haven’t heard anything about playing time. We have an exciting group, and … a lot of people are going to have a tough time preparing for us.
“I just have to go out there every day and make plays,” Dwyer added. “Whether it’s in practice or a game, I have to make sure the coaches and my teammates trust me that I can do the job when they call my number. I’ve done OK so far, but it’s time for me to take that next step.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger certainly doesn’t have to prove anything, and his veteran leadership is among the reasons his teammates voted him as an offensive captain. Defensive end Brett Keisel was selected a defensive captain for the first time in his career. The two were the only captains this season, as long-time captains James Farrior and Hines Ward, as well as special teams captain Arnaz Battle from last season, were released in the offseason.
“I set the bar pretty high for myself, and I don’t think anybody could hold it any higher than me,” Roethlisberger said. “But I just want to keep trying to get better, and we’ll see what happens from there. … I don’t think I’m on the downslope of my career, by any stretch, at least I hope not. I just want to keep trying to get things to slow down and keep figuring things out.
“But I’m blessed to have a talented group of guys around me to make plays, and I don’t have to do as much as I used to. As far as the opener goes, it was a no-brainer that they were going to put Peyton’s first game back on a Sunday night or a Monday night, one of the two, and let him play at home. And they’ll let us come back to (Denver), I guess.”
Keisel talked about the defense.
“You always want to be as good as you possibly can be, and we had the No. 1 ranking last year,” Keisel said. “But we can improve ourselves by getting more turnovers this season.
“That’s been a point of emphasis, and we need to stop people from scoring touchdowns in the red zone. But I think we have to guys to be capable of doing that. And we’ll get a good test this week.”
Notes: Coach Mike Tomlin will hold his weekly press conference Tuesday at noon, and the Steelers will resume their on-field preparation with practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before leaving for Denver Saturday.